Prophet Abraham's (pbuh) Religion

Who could have a better religion than someone who submits himself completely to God, is a good-doer, and follows the religion of Abraham, a man of pure natural belief?... (Qur'an, 4:125)

People continue to argue over which religion Prophet Abraham (pbuh) followed. Jews regard him as a Jewish prophet and claim to follow his path. Christians also consider him a Jewish prophet, but claim that he followed Prophet Jesus (pbuh), who came after him.

In the Qur'an, however, God reveals the truth of this matter by providing certain information:

Or do they say that Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and the Descendents were Jews or Christians? Say: "Do you know better, or does God?" Who could do greater wrong than someone who hides the evidence he has been given by God? God is not unaware of what you do. (Qur'an, 2:140)

Moreover, other verses expose just how irrational this debate really is:

O People of the Book. Why do you argue about Abraham when the Torah and Gospel were only sent down after him? Why don't you use your intellect? You are the ones who argued about that of which you had knowledge. But why do you argue about something of which you have no knowledge? God knows; you do not know. (Qur'an, 3:65-66)

The Qur'an provides the most accurate information about Prophet Abraham (pbuh), for it is the only uncorrupted book of God. If people take other sources as guides, they fall into great error and interpret matters in the light of their own ideas and beliefs. As in all matters, however, believers take the Qur'an and the Sunnah of our Prophet (may God bless him and grant him peace) as the only true sources of information about the prophets and their lines, for teaching falsehoods and engaging in speculation and guesswork, particularly about the prophets, displeases God.

Only the Qur'an states the whole truth about Prophet Abraham (pbuh):

Abraham was neither a Jew nor a Christian, but a man of pure natural belief-a Muslim. He was not one of the idolaters. (Qur'an, 3:67)

The Qur'an calls Prophet Abraham (pbuh) a hanif, instead of a Jew or a Christian. Hanif means a devout, upright, and righteous person who submits to God's command and never moves away from His religion. The most hanif characteristics of Prophet Abraham (pbuh) were his belief in the One and Only God and his submission to Him.

In another verse, our Lord commands Prophet Muhammad (may God bless him and grant him peace) to abide by Prophet Abraham's (pbuh) religion:

Then We revealed to you: "Follow the religion of Abraham, a man of pure natural belief. He was not one of the idolaters." (Qur'an, 16:123)

God wishes people to turn to religion in a hanif manner, as pure believers. God clearly emphasizes that hanif people do not ascribe partners to Him:

So set your face firmly towards the Religion, as a pure natural believer, God's natural pattern on which He made humanity. There is no changing in God's creation. That is the true Religion-but most people do not know it. (Qur'an, 30:30)

As can be understood from several verses, Prophet Abraham's (pbuh) religion was essentially the same as Islam. In any case, all divinely revealed religions are, in their original and uncorrupted forms, essentially built on earning God's good pleasure, compassion, and Paradise. Prophet Abraham's (pbuh) children and grandchildren, as well as other devout individuals from his line, adhered to this religion after his death. For example, the Qur'an emphasizes Prophet Joseph's (pbuh) address to his fellow prisoners:

I hold fast to the creed of my forebears Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We don't associate anything with God. And that is how God has favored us and all humanity, but most do not give thanks. (Qur'an, 12:38)

This locket, from the eighth or ninth century BCE, symbolizes the Assyrians' idolatrous worship. The main deity of Assyria, the strongest power in Mesopotamia between 1900 and 612 BCE, was known as Asshur.

All hanifs, regardless of when they live, are distinguished by their glorification of God without ascribing partners to Him. One of the prophets' main duties was to rescue people from their misguided belief systems and worldviews, as well as those practices and values that transgressed the limits set down by God for humanity, and to call their people to the true religion. One hadith informs us of the following:

Abu Bakrah (ra) relates that: "The Messenger of God, may God bless him and grant him peace, once asked: 'Shall I inform you of a great sin, one of the greatest sins? ...[It is] to ascribe a partner to God.'"2

In one verse, God reveals that Islam is as easy as Prophet Abraham's (pbuh) religion:

... He [God] has selected you and not placed any constraint upon you in the religion-the religion of your forefather Abraham. He named you Muslims before, and also in this, so that the messenger could be witness against you and you could be witnesses against all of humanity. So perform the prescribed prayers, give alms, and hold fast to God. He is your Protector-the Best Protector, the Best Helper. (Qur'an, 22:78)

According to the Qur'an, the people who turn to God and live by His religion in its true sense are Muslim. The word Muslim comes from the Arabic word salam and means one who has achieved well-being or who has submitted (to God). The essence of being Muslim lies in submitting to God and living in the ensuing peace and security. The prophets, all of whom guided their people to the true path, submitted totally to our Lord and were sincerely devoted to Him, are role models for us. By turning to and then submitting to our Lord, seeking refuge in Him, taking Him as their only friend, and asking for help only from Him, they are all called Muslim in the Qur'an.

He (God) has selected you and not placed any constraint upon you in the religion –the religion of your forefather Abraham
(Qur'an, 22:78)
For instance, God commanded Prophet Noah (pbuh) to tell his tribe "My wage is the responsibility of God alone. I am commanded to be one of the Muslims" (Qur'an, 10:72); Prophet Moses (pbuh) told his tribe "My people. If you believe in God, then put your trust in Him, if you are Muslims" (Qur'an, 10:84); and Prophet Solomon (pbuh) addressed his tribe in these terms: "Do not rise up against me, but come to me in submission [as Muslims]" (Qur'an, 27:31). In the Qur'an, God reveals the following to His followers:

When I inspired the Disciples [of Jesus] to believe in Me and in My Messenger [Jesus], they said: "We believe. Bear witness that we are Muslims." (Qur'an, 5:111)

As can be seen from the above verses, sincere believers are those people who submit to God, live solely by religious moral values, and have pure faith. God honors such people with the name Muslim.

Prophet Joseph's (pbuh) prayer is a fine example for us in several areas. God reveals it in the following verse:

... You have granted power to me in the land and taught me the true meaning of events. O, Originator of the heavens and Earth. You are my Friend in this world and the Hereafter, so take me as a Muslim at my death and join me to the people who are righteous. (Qur'an, 12:101)

Prophet Abraham's (pbuh) joyful faith in God, his deep love for Him, his submission to all of His commands, as well as his obedience and superior morality, are emphasized in the Qur'an. Some of these verses read:

Our Lord, make us both Muslims submitted to You and our descendents a Muslim community submitted to You. Show us our rites of worship and turn toward us. You are the Ever-Returning, the Most Merciful. (Qur'an, 2:128)

When his Lord said to him: "Become a Muslim," he [Abraham] said: "I am a Muslim who has submitted to the Lord of all the worlds." (Qur'an, 2:131)

Every Muslim must take Prophet Abraham's (pbuh) pleasing morality, sincere faith, and total submission and obedience to God as role models. In fact, his discernment and determination in presenting God's message are among the important traits that all people who call themselves Muslims should adopt.

Originally, all divine religions were based on Prophet Abraham's (pbuh) religion. However, Christianity and Judaism were corrupted over time and so moved away from their original nature: not ascribing partners to God (the greatest sin) and living solely to earn His good pleasure.

The love and respect felt by both present-day Christians and Jews for Prophet Abraham (pbuh) unites them in a common foundation with Muslims. Members of these three divinely revealed religions therefore share a common belief in God, which they have inherited from Prophet Abraham (pbuh), and seek to serve Him. However, Christians and Jews misinterpret some aspects of Prophet Abraham's (pbuh) religion. The Qur'an informs us that Muslims have invited them to this common word:

Say: "O People of the Book [Christians and Jews], come to a proposition that is the same for us and you-that we should worship none but God, associate no partners with Him, and take no one of us as lords besides God." If they turn away, say: "Bear witness that we are Muslims." (Qur'an, 3:64)

Prophet Abraham (pbuh) Spreads the Religion

Every prophet was charged with informing his tribe of God's commands and prohibitions. Prophet Noah (pbuh), Prophet Salih (pbuh) (of Thamud), Prophet Lot (pbuh), Prophet Shuayb (pbuh) (of Madyan), Prophet Moses (pbuh) (of the Children of Israel), Prophet Jesus (pbuh), and all other prophets informed their tribes of God's existence and called on them to live by the true religion's moral values. However, these prophets often found that the majority of their tribes denied God and rejected them and even initiated multifaceted struggles against them consisting of vile slanders, threats, and aggression. In some cases, they resorted to forced expulsion, arrest, or murder to prevent the prophets from performing their God-given tasks. God reveals how the traps set for Prophet Muhammad (may God bless him and grant him peace) will end in failure:

When those who do not believe were plotting against you to imprison you, kill you, or expel you: they were plotting and God was planning, but God is the Best Planner. (Qur'an, 8:30)

The majority of Mesopotamian societies worshipped the Sun and the Moon. It is believed that Naram Sin, king of Akkadia, was deified by the moon god and possessed extraordinary powers.
(Side) A victory inscription of King Naram Sin and his pagan people who prostrated to the Moon.

As stated earlier, Prophet Abraham's (pbuh) tribe worshipped statues that their ancestors had made from stone and wood. Prophet Abraham (pbuh), who had the determination and the powerful faith to single-handedly tell them of God's existence and oneness, was sent to guide them from their blind devotion to their ancestors' paganism into the light of His religion.

Throughout history, the majority has often decided which ideas and beliefs are to be accepted as true. Given that it is difficult to stand up against the majority in societies that are far from religion, many people eventually agree, either willingly or unwillingly, to submit to ideas and beliefs that they know to be wrong. The prophets and the believers who followed them, however, always opposed the unbelieving majority and displayed enormous courage in the face of the ensuing pressure, threats, or attacks. They remained loyal to God's religion by scrupulously performing their religious observations and abiding by our Lord's commands out of their fear and awe of Him, as well as their complete trust in Him.

Prophet Abraham (pbuh), whom God praised as being "a community in himself" (Qur'an, 16:120), stood alone against his father and his entire pagan tribe. He patiently explained why their idols could never attain any divine quality and that the only true deity was God. His opposition to his tribe's paganism, as well as his method of challenging their superstitions and working to guide them to the true path despite their hostility, clearly revealed his powerful faith, submission, sincerity, and superior character. All of these characteristics made him a courageous and determined individual. The Qur'an relates some of his words, as follows:

His tribe argued with him. He said: "Are you arguing with me about God, when He has guided me? I have no fear of any partner you ascribe to Him, unless my Lord should will such a thing to happen. My Lord encompasses all things in His knowledge, so will you not pay heed? Why should I fear what you have associated with Him, when you yourselves apparently have no fear of associating partners with God, for which He has sent down no authority to you? Which of the two parties is more entitled to feel safe, if you have any knowledge?" (Qur'an, 6:80-81)

Such conversations with his tribe reveal many pleasing examples of his deep and strong faith. Thanks to the superior wisdom and understanding imparted to him by our Lord, Prophet Abraham (pbuh) gave enormously effective addresses and the wisest of examples. Looked at with the eye of wisdom, present-day Muslims can use his means and methods to invite their own people to believe in God. Given this, we will now look at some of Prophet Abraham's (pbuh) wise explanations.

Prophet Abraham's (pbuh) Conversations with His Father

O Messenger! Transmit what has been sent down to you from your lord. If you do not do it you will not have transmitted His Message…
(Qur'an, 5:67)

All Muslims are responsible for inviting people to believe in God. The Qur'an refers to this as commanding what is right and forbidding what is wrong. This duty arises out of the fact that people must be warned, in other words informed and reminded of certain important truths, such as that God created the universe from nothing, that every human being is responsible to our Lord and will have to account to Him in the Hereafter, and that they will be rewarded in the Hereafter for what they did in this world.

Those who shoulder this responsibility are devout Muslims who sincerely believe in God and who hold Him in awe out of a deep-rooted respect. God has given them the power, wisdom, and intelligence to distinguish between right and wrong. In exchange, they are to explain His religion in the light of the addressee's character, state of mind, and viewpoint on life in the most pleasant and appropriate manner possible. In addition, they must properly evaluate the addressee's reaction and response and adapt their methods in order to effectively communicate the divine message. As performing this obligation calls for considerable effort, warning whole societies and explaining the religion to tribes whose fathers have not been warned, namely, communities that are far from religion's moral values, is a heavy responsibility. In fact, God tells believers to spread His religion with wisdom and pleasant advice, as the following verse reveals:

Call to the way of your Lord with wisdom and fair admonition, and argue with them in the kindest way. Your Lord knows best who is misguided from His way. And He knows best who are guided. (Qur'an, 16:125)

Each Muslim is entrusted with explaining and advising others about God's existence and the Qur'an's beauties. To enable them to carry out this responsibility, God has revealed in the Qur'an the most suitable and appropriate methods. For example, believers should invite their friends and family members first to believe in God and the Day of Judgment:

So do not call on any other deity along with God, or you will be among those who will be punished. Warn your near relatives. (Qur'an, 26:213-14)

… call your witnesses, besides god, if you are telling the truth. If you do not do that- and you will not do it-then fear the Fire whose fuel is people and stones, made ready for the unbelievers.
(Qur'an, 2:23-24)
Prophet Abraham's (pbuh) words to his father are exemplary in this respect. He explained to his father, in a most wise manner, that worshipping idols was equivalent to ascribing partners to God and that a person should serve God alone. The Qur'an records some of these words:

Remember when Abraham said to his father, Azar: "Do you take idols as gods? I see that you and your tribe are clearly misguided." (Qur'an, 6:74)

Remember when he [Abraham] said to his father: "Father, why do you worship that which can neither hear nor see, and is of no use to you at all? Father, knowledge that never reached you has come to me. So follow me, and I will guide you to the right path." (Qur'an, 19:42-43)

One of the most important elements of this conversation, which should be taken as a model, is that no matter how arrogant and difficult an unbeliever may be, a believer must remain patient while relaying the message and behave in the most pleasant manner possible.

Prophet Abraham's (pbuh) approach here is exactly the same as that of Prophet Moses (pbuh) toward Pharaoh. Prophet Moses (pbuh) also employed a temperate and gentle style when relaying God's message to Pharaoh, in compliance with God's command to "speak to him with gentle words so that, hopefully, he will pay heed or show some fear" (Qur'an, 20:44).

God reveals the message that Prophet Abraham (pbuh) gave to his father, as well as his father's reaction:

[Abraham said:] "Omy father, do not worship Satan. Satan was disobedient to the All-Merciful. Father, I am afraid that a punishment from the All-Merciful will afflict you, and turn you into a comrade of Satan." He [his father] replied: "Do you forsake my deities, Abraham? If you do not stop, I will stone you. Keep away from me for a good long time." He [Abraham] said: "Peace be upon you. I will ask my Lord to forgive you. He has always honored me. I will separate myself from you and all that you call upon besides God, and I will call upon my Lord. It may well be that, in calling upon my Lord, I will not be disappointed." (Qur'an, 19:44-46)

Could they not see that it did not reply to them and that it possessed no power to either harm or benefit them?
(Qur'an, 20:89)

(Left) An idol from 2500-1100 BCE.
(Right) The Assyrians believed that idols made of stone and wood could protect them from disasters. This idol, known as Hadad, was regarded as a protective idol by King Esarhaddon (seventh century BCE).

These conversations contain important wisdom. First and foremost, Prophet Abraham's (pbuh) courageous and humble attitude is most striking. He carried out God's order, even at the risk of his own life, and invited his father to the true path. He risked losing his father's love, help, and goods; refused to be intimidated by his father's threats, and displayed the greatest humility and patience when told to leave.

Knowing that God would help him and show him the right path, he behaved according to the comfort and security that such knowledge imparted. The way that he immediately prayed to God after being unjustly forced to leave the house in which he lived, and his faith that his prayer would be heard demonstrate the exemplary modesty and purity required of a Muslim. Moreover, he displayed a most pleasing moral attitude toward his father, who was quite hostile. He maintained his moderate style and continued to call him my father. All Muslims should adopt this example of a very superior morality when calling people to the truth.

He approached his father with great affection and modesty, and humbly invited him to the true path. When his father persisted in his denial, Prophet Abraham (pbuh) immediately sought refuge in God and removed himself. This attitude shows that Muslims are to work only for God's good pleasure, and to love what He loves and hate what He hates. God reveals this quality, which every Muslim should possess, thus:

It is not right for the Prophet and those who believe to ask forgiveness for the idolater-even if they are close relatives-after it has become clear to them that they are the Companions of the Blazing Fire. Abraham would not have asked forgiveness for his father but for a promise he made to him. And when it became clear to him [Abraham] that he [his father] was an enemy of God, he renounced him. Abraham was tender-hearted and forbearing. (Qur'an, 9:113-14)

Another noteworthy feature of this conversation between Prophet Abraham (pbuh) and his father is the latter's devotion to paganism. So strong was his devotion that it led him to threaten his son with death by stoning, a son who was of his own blood, whom he had raised and kept by his side, and who treated his father so respectfully. The only reason for his father's wrath was that Prophet Abraham (pbuh) worshipped only God and rejected his tribe's paganism. This is an example of the unbelievers' cruel, uncompromising, and oppressive natures.

The Unbeliever Advised by Prophet Abraham (pbuh)

The Qur'an refers to an unbelieving ruler whom Prophet Abraham (pbuh) met when calling people to believe in God. Known as Nimrod in various historical sources, he and Prophet Abraham (pbuh) engaged in an important conversation:

What about the one who argued with Abraham about his Lord, on the basis that God had given him sovereignty? Abraham said: "My Lord is He Who gives life and causes to die." He [Nimrod] said: "I too give life and cause to die..." Qur'an, 2:258)

As this verse makes clear, Nimrod had become very arrogant due to his goods, property, and rule. While talking with Prophet Abraham (pbuh), he made the enormous and irrational claim that he also possessed the power of creation. By proclaiming his own divinity, as he was so proud of his wealth and chattel, he was, in fact, denying God. Because of his pride, he rejected to see God's might and power over the universe.

After informing Nimrod of God's existence and oneness, Prophet Abraham (pbuh), replied to this ruler, who grew arrogant against God, with a most wise and rational statement:

"God makes the Sun come from the East. Make it come from the West." And the disbeliever [Nimrod] was dumbfounded. God does not guide wrongdoing people. (Qur'an, 2:258)

He has made night and day subservient to you, and the Sun and Moon and stars, all subject to His command. There are certainly Signs in that for people who
use their intellect.
(Qur'an, 16:12)

All prophets have always employed wise and rational arguments, such as the example given above. God has enabled those believers who spread His message to do so most effectively, thus refuting the unbelievers' mistaken worldview. Such arguments always leave unbelievers, who believe themselves to be on the right path and who trust in their wealth, power, and idols, unable to mount a serious defense of their belief systems. Therefore, they are always condemned to be defeated and at a loss for words.

Another important aspect of Prophet Abraham's (pbuh) response is his honesty and naturalness. A sincere and honest explanation always influences peoples' hearts and consciences. God's existence is evident, and the believer's explanation of this manifest truth from the heart always touches other people. But even if they are so influenced, some unbelievers persist in their unbelief. Such people, who generally are far removed from religion, grow proud out of the belief that their wealth, attractiveness, or status are the results of their own efforts. They unjustly regard themselves as superior and forget about God. Satan encourages their pride and uses the power and position that they mistakenly consider their own, to prevent them from serving God.

Believers encounter many people as they spread God's message. Many people, due to their pride, cannot see God's might and power. In such situations, believers must give examples that show people just how helpless they really are in order to eliminate their pride. As a result, unbelievers will realize that their arrogance and pride in their possessions are of no significance. Gradually, they will realize that their strength and power are limited, that everything will end with death, and that God is the only absolute being.

The mode of explication used by Prophet Abraham (pbuh) to relay the truth to Nimrod shows just how important the use of rational, wise, and target-oriented speech is in spreading His message. Believers must never engage in pointless arguments; rather, they must always use effective and rational explanations to defeat the audience's superstitious beliefs and demonstrate God's existence by analyzing the audience members' psychological states and logical frameworks. Clearly, only people with deep faith, who scrupulously adhere to God's commands and who hold Him in awe, will be able to devise such an effective and wise mode of explication. This is true, because wisdom is a divine blessing that must be sought from God. God imparts this secret to us, as follows:

He gives wisdom to whoever He wills, and he who has been given wisdom has been given great good... (Qur'an, 2:269)

… Have done with the defilement of idols and have done with telling lies. Be people of pure natural belief in God, not associating anything else with Him. As for anyone who associates others with God it is as though he had fallen from the sky and the birds had seized him and carried him away or the wind had
dropped him in a distant place.
(Qur'an, 22:30-31)


2- Hadith at-Tirmidhi.

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